Cold weather, not oil, seems responsible for the recent spate of baby-dolphin deaths along the Gulf coast, according to researchers at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab:
They point to an apparent correlation between large pulses of chilly water that flowed into Mobile Bay during January and February and the subsequent discovery of dozens of stillborn dolphin calves in area waters.
Data on water temperature and river flows show periods in each month when bay waters dipped into the 40s for days at a time. Shortly after bay temperatures dropped precipitously, dead stillborn dolphins began washing ashore in Alabama.
Melting snow — a rarity for the state — was behind the water temperature drop.
Most reporting on the mysterious dolphin deaths has, like this Reuters story, fingered the BP spill as the culprit. The Sea Lab folks have been a voice of sanity, reporting (as they did last year) that sea life is doing well after the spill.
I was relieved to hear that the cold-water theory was
the strongest a strong candidate for explaining the infant-dolphin deaths. Not only does it let BP off the hook, so to speak, but also the dolphins themselves.
Like most Hollywood stars, dolphins aren’t as cute in real life as they are on the silver screen. They make Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan look like model citizens, since, as Slate reports, they’re prone to murder baby dolphins and their close relative, the porpoise, as well as to rape and sexually harass.
Not just other dolphins, either. Gossip tabs report that Demi Moore had a close encounter, as did Jessica Alba while filming the remake of Flipper. Said Alba to MTV: ““I don’t know if anybody knows this but dolphins get excited, even when you are a human being — and they have long, long. . . . I didn’t know this until I was being poked by a few of them, which was very rude. I think I learned my lesson. I sort of request female dolphins after that because those are horny little b*******.” According to the New York Post, Susan Sarandon was once attacked by the female mate of a dolphin with whom she had grown friendly.
As one of my occasional correspondents, an experienced diver, wrote me yesterday, “You know, they sit there with those cute little smiles, and clicks and whistles. It’s all an act. They’d stick a shiv in your back as soon as [they] look at you.”
UPDATE: On rereading the post above, I wanted to clarify that “strongest candidate” means the folks at Dauphin Island Sea Lab think they have a strong case for cold water, but say they have not definitively ruled out other potential causes and contributors, including oil. As originally written, I sailed a little too close to the shoals of “accurate but misleading.”